19 months with Andrew Holness-led Administration: Signs of sunrise

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, December 24, 2017

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Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome. — Dr Samuel Johnson

Except for those who suffer with what National Hero Norman Manley called a corruption of consciousness, twinned with what I often refer to as stage four Jamaica House Withdrawal Syndrome, it is self-evident that the Andrew Holness-led Administration has done a very creditable job in managing the affairs of the country since taking office nearly 19 months ago.

Similar to the 1960s and mid-1980s, Jamaica is once again seeing a return to economic morning. Once regarded as the Pearl of the Caribbean, our country was relegated to the category of the 'Poor Man of the Caribbean' by more than two decades of 'poor-a-blood' [anaemic] economic policies of the People's National Party (PNP) in the 1970s and 90s.

When the political scales fell from his eyes, democratic socialism was declared dead by its premier local lieutenant, Michael Manley, at a National Executive Council Meeting at The University of the West Indies in the 1990s. Democratic socialism was little more than a cruel brand of Fabianism hatched in Britain. Manley also publicly rejected democratic socialism in Washington, DC, after he got a third bite of Jamaica's choicest political cherry.

Recall these eye-opening comments in the respected The Economist in March 1997: “The Michael Manley who visited the United States in 1990 had cast aside his Che Guevara bush jacket in favour of a suit. The free market had replaced his party's 'ten steps to socialism'. President Bush was happy to bless a sinner who had apparently repented, and he went out of his way to praise the 'first-class job' that Manley was doing as prime minister of Jamaica. It takes style and gall to change sides successfully, and Manley had plenty of both. He turned on a reporter, who seemed puzzled that the old leftie had become a free marketer, and said: 'Is your outlook on everything the same as it was 10 years ago?' “

Lest we forget!

In the 1990s, former Prime Minister P J Patterson, our longest-serving, near completed the process of ruination started by his predecessor. Jamaica is largely where it is because of the mismanagement of our economic affairs by the PNP. The catastrophic results of the PNP's scorched-earth economic policies must never be forgotten. Recall that these companies — and this is an abbreviated list — capsized under the PNP: Mutual Life, a company that operated locally for over 100 years; Goodyear Tyre Company; West Indies Glass; Homelectrix; Workers' Bank; Raymar's Furniture; Charley's Windsor House; Thermo Plastics; Berec Batteries; Century National Bank; Crown Eagle Insurance; Crown Eagle Insurance Commercial Bank; Island Life Insurance Company; American Life Insurance Company; Eagle Merchant Bank; Ecotrends; Times Store; Things Jamaican, which had its location turned into a detention centre by the PNP. Add to those another 45,000 small- and medium-sized businesses that went under during the 1990s.

Long-standing bugbears

I have long argued in this space that there is no Abrahamic curse which prevents Jamaica from achieving her true quota of greatness. In general, our growth and development have been stunted by periods of kakistocratic administrations, [government by the worst people], refusal to emancipate from mental slavery, stifling corruption, choking crime, and a sinister fascination, if not a pre-occupation, with superstition and pseudo- intellectualism.

We have made good strides since Independence but, like reggae legend Jimmy Cliff sang, and here I take slight liberties: We still have many rivers to cross. I am supremely confident that we can cross them with the correct application of steadfastness and determination. Muhammad Ali said, “Often it isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the little pebble in your shoe.” I agree.

Time to build

The Portia Simpson Administration capitalised on the economic groundwork laid by the Bruce Golding Administration. This is good governance. Confucius said: “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”

The Andrew Holness-led Administration has built on the gains of the previous Administration. This is good governance. Those who preach ad nauseam that Jamaica is close to disappearing, like the fictional continent of Atlantis, are involved in severe self-delusion, rooted in bad mind. The incontrovertible evidence supports the reality that we are starting to see — and here I take liberties with Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign slogan: It's morning again in America. It's morning again in Jamaica.

Signs of sunrise

1. No runaway train inflation: According to the most recent information from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), inflation for the calendar year-to-date inflation was recorded at four to six per cent and 3.6 per cent for the fiscal year to date. Recall that, “Inflation increased by 250 per cent, peaking at 49.4 per cent in 1978.” ( The Gleaner, October 23, 2016). We have come a mighty long way.

2. Revaluation of the Jamaican dollar. The Jamaican dollar has now appreciated to J$124.96: US$1 [last time I checked] — its best value in over 18 months!

3. Business and consumer confidence are at all-time highs:

“Jamaicans remain upbeat about the country's economic prospects, although the reality of the slower than anticipated rate of growth over the past 18 months has tempered some of the expectations.

“That's the finding of the latest Survey of Consumer and Business Confidence Indices released by The Jamaica Conference Board, the research advisory body of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.

“The findings for the third quarter of this year showed the Consumer Confidence Index at 151.1, slightly above the 149.3 recorded for the second quarter of the year.

“This was nearly identical to the third quarter of last year and, according to lead researcher Don Anderson, consumers gave credit to the Government's economic policies and, increasingly, to the actual expansion of business and job opportunities sparked by these policies.

“Anderson noted that Jamaican firms expressed a greater degree of economic confidence in the third quarter than any other time prior to 2016.

“He added that, while optimism has slowly declined from the unbridled responses to the initial announcement of the Government's new policies nearly two years ago, the pull-back mostly reflected a more realistic assessment of the pace of the expected gains.

“The survey found that 50 per cent of firms expect an improved economy, with 58 per cent saying the time is right to expand their capacity and 66 per cent expecting financial gains in the year ahead.” ( The Gleaner, October 10, 2017)

4. More people are employed than any other time in our history.

“The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) is reporting that a record 1,216,200 people were employed as at July 2017.

“Director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr Wayne Henry, said the figure contained in STATIN's Labour Force Survey represents an increase of 29,200 people relative to July 2016, and is the highest ever recorded for a single month.

“ 'This out-turn in the number of employed persons continues the trend of establishing record levels of employment observed since mid-2016. Prior to these increases, the previous record level of employment was registered in October 2008 at 1,174,500 persons,' he said.

“The director general added that the overall labour force rose by 8,000 people to 1,371,300 as at July 2017.

“He was speaking at the PIOJ's recent quarterly media briefing at the agency's head office in New Kingston.

“Dr Henry said an examination of the employed labour force by industry groups revealed that 11 of the 16 categories recorded higher employment levels.

“The largest increases, he pointed out, were in hotels and restaurants, up 11,000 people; financial intermediation, up 6,700 people; and wholesale and retail repair of motor vehicles and equipment, up 5,300 people.

“Additionally, Dr Henry said female employment continues to increase steadily, with STATIN reporting that the figure rose to 538,900 in July 2017.

“This is 15,000 more than the corresponding period in 2016, STATIN further reports, but 168,400 less than the figure for their male counterparts, which increased by 14,200 to 677,300.

“Dr Henry also said that the total labour force reflected an increase in the working-age population, 14 years and older, by 4,400 people and a corresponding contraction of 3,600 people in the number of individuals outside the workforce.

“He said STATIN's latest data indicate that the unemployment rate as at July 2017 was 11.3 per cent, representing the lowest quarterly rate in eight years.”

5. Our economy is poised growth: “Jamaica remains on track to reach its December quantitative and indicative targets under the precautionary Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund.

“That's according to a statement this morning from the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC).

“EPOC met last week to review the latest available data on Jamaica's economic performance.

“EPOC says fiscal year-to-date tax revenues at the end of October 2017 were at approximately $272-billion which exceeded the budgeted target of just over $260billion.” ( Nationwide News Network, December 19,2017)

6. Development projects get off the ground

Headline: Ground broken for US$60-m solar-powered plant in Westmoreland'

When complete, this will be the largest in the Caribbean and will offer the lowest cost renewable energy at US$8.53 cents per kilowatt. [ Jamaica Observer, December 14, 2017]

Headline: Dredging of Kingston Harbour complete

“The Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL) has announced the completion of the capital dredging of the shipping channel within the Kingston Harbour.

“KFTL said the dredging of the harbour, which was completed one-and-half month ahead of the scheduled nine months, has fulfilled all conditions outlined in its environmental permit issued by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).

“The dredging facilitated the deepening of the nautical access to allow the Port of Kingston to accommodate larger New Panamax container vessels, which will now be passing through the region following the recent expansion of the Panama Canal,” KFTL said. ( Jamaica Observer, September 14, 2017)

Headline: 'IBEX Investing $189m to expand BPO space In Portmore'

“IBEX International said it is investing US$1.5 million, about J$189.3 million, to retrofit space formerly occupied by Empire Supermarket in Portmore, St Catherine, to expand its business process outsourcing (BPO) operation and in the process provide additional jobs.” ( The Sunday Gleaner, December 3, 2017)

Headline: 'Govt inks deal with China for Constant Spring Rd expansion'

“The Government today signed a contract for a US$19-million loan, or almost J$2.5 billion for the Constant Spring Road improvement project in St Andrew.” ( Nationwide News Network, December 6, 2017)

Headline: 'Official opening of upgraded Marcus Garvey Drive today'

“The works, which fall under the Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP), involved widening of a section of the roadway from four to six lanes and the installation of sidewalks; upgrading the drainage infrastructure; improving lighting, among other things.” ( Jamaica Observer, October 5, 2017)

I could name several other major projects.

7. Tourism is on the rise.

“Jamaica on Friday welcomed the arrival of a record four million tourists to the shores since the start of the year.

“Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is now projecting that, by the end of the year, the destination will welcome 4.3 million visitors, or an increase of over 500,000 more than visited last year.” ( Loop, December 16, 2017)

Tourism is also expected to bring in record earnings of US$3 billion this year.

8. Mining

Headline: 'Nain looks to welcome the return of Alpart today'

“The opening of the new Alpart/JISCO Alumina Refinery in Nain, St Elizabeth, this morning brings a ray of hope to an industry which has been losing its impact on the economy after decades of being a top performer for Jamaica. Preparatory activities have been in high gear for several months, and approximately 800 more Jamaicans in the area are now employed.” ( Jamaica Observer, June 21, 2017)

Ian Boyne

Condolence to the family of the late Ian Boyne. He was a good and decent man. He did his earthly duties with distinction. I believe he will do similar up yonder. Walk good!

Unfair argument, Paul Buchanan

Like American writer Mark Twain, I never “argue with ignorant people, since they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience”. Also, please refer to the suggestion I gave Dr Canute Thompson two or so articles ago. Commiseration to you, my dear Sir!

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Veritas odium paret. (Truth creates hatred.) — Terence

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@ yahoo.com.

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